New head coach Anthony Lynn said he plans to use Gates and Hunter Henry together, but the frequency with which the team uses two-tight end formations will depend on the opponent, Chargers.com reports. Gates and Henry combined for 15 touchdowns last season, with the former getting more volume and the latter producing much more efficiently on a per-target basis. The team did make use of two-TE formations at times, but Gates and Henry still cut into each other's snap counts, with both finishing the year at fewer than 600 snaps. While the 22-year-old Henry will rightfully enter 2017 as the preferred commodity, Gates could still retain a significant role in the San Diego passing game, particularly near the goal line.
Gates caught five passes for 55 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's loss to the Chiefs. Gates' 111 touchdown catch was a historic one, as the veteran is now tied with Tony Gonzalez for the most touchdown receptions by a tight end in the history of the NFL. While the 36-year-old has suggested he will be back for his 15th season, it's clear Gates is beginning to succumb to Father Time as he limped his way to 548 receiving yards, his lowest mark since the 2012 season. However Gates still possesses an innate chemistry with Philip Rivers, particularly in the red zone, which has kept the veteran fantasy relevant despite an obvious decline in athleticism. With rookie tight end Hunter Henry flashing signs of brilliance it seems like only a matter of time until Gates is surpassed on the depth chart, but that doesn't necessarily mean the ageless wonder will fade off into obscurity. Perhaps more damaging to his fantasy value could be a full-scale coaching change, as the Chargers' fired head coach Mike McCoy Sunday, kicking off what is expected to be a litany of moves to the coaching staff. While the Chargers' have benefited from a productive two-tight end offense throughout much of Gates' twilight years, a scheme change could be in the cards with a new head coach and thus may put Gates in an uncomfortable position -- behind his younger counterpart on the pecking chain.
Gates caught eight passes for 94 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's loss to the Browns. One week after being held to just a single catch, Gates exploded against the Browns, factoring in plenty throughout the game. With Hunter Henry hampered by a variety of injuries, Gates saw a team-high 13 targets and converted that into season-high marks in catches and yards. Despite the solid performance Saturday, the 36-year-old is on track to post career-lows in targets, receptions and receiving yards in what could very well be his last year in the NFL.
Gates was held in check Sunday, catching one pass for 11 yards in the loss to the Raiders. Despite recording over 60 yards of receiving yards last week, Gates was hardly targeted against what was supposed to be a beatable Raiders secondary. While he did see 35 snaps, six more than his rookie counterpart Hunter Henry, Gates was forced to chip block the Raiders disruptive defensive line, limiting his explosive potential. The 36-year-old should have a better performance if he can shaky off the frigid temperatures when the Chargers travel to face the Browns next week.
Gates caught five of his nine targets for 61 yards in the loss to the Panthers on Sunday. Gates saw more than five targets for the first time since Week 10 as the Chargers were forced to rally from behind throughout much of the game. While the veteran tight end vastly out produced his rookie counterpart Hunter Henry, the two remained near even in snap counts, as Gates recorded 37 compared to Henry's 35. This isn't surprising given the Chargers' propensity to employ two-tight end sets, but it's interesting to note that Gates has received 13 targets in the last two weeks as opposed to Henry's six. That being said, it's been Henry who has seen the targets near the goal line, as the rookie tight end caught a touchdown Sunday, the third time he's found pay dirt in the last four weeks. With Melvin Gordon (hip) potentially out for an extended absence, the Chargers may be forced to throw the ball more in the red zone, making both Gates and Henry attractive options for fantasy purposes, as each should see plenty of looks against the Raiders next week.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
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Red Zone Trends
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